Election season: Attack ads. Scathing articles. Name-calling. There’s no doubt we’re in the throes of it. And if you’re anything like me, you’re over it. Maybe you’ve even Googled “immigration to Canada”…well…I feel you, dogg. #FistBumpEmoji
We can make the Canada decision later. But for now, we have to get real: for the next five months, we’re in this socially polarizing, toxic shitshow. And we’re in it together. We may have different views on the issues, but we all could use some tips on how to keep your sanity (and your friends) ’till November and beyond!
1) Take Breaks
The economy. ISIS. Benghazi. Building a wall and getting Mexico to pay for it. Aaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! Turn it off. Seriously. It’s sensory overload. It weighs on your emotional well-being. Seems like everywhere you look there’s some election nonsense. True, we do have to stay informed and pay attention to the issues, but don’t let the issues and information overwhelm you. Every Internet browser has a “close window” button. Every TV has a “power off” option. Exercise those options and take breaks from the madness.
When you listen to someone whose opinion radically differs from your own, watch yourself. Are you listening and judging and reacting and projecting and rejecting and criticizing all at the same time? Because that’s “listening-AND”. Just plain, good-ole-fashioned listening means listening without an agenda. Without judgment. Without dismissing the speaker. Suspend your judgment (and your emotional trigger response) and try to understand the issue from his point of view. At the very least, you can listen with compassion, even if you totally disagree with his logic. You may even find something compelling, something that makes you challenge your own beliefs. Either way, ONLY good things come from listening fully and presently to differing opinions.
3) Stay Positive
A couple of years ago I rolled down to the Staples Center to catch a Lakers v. Celtics game. We (the Lakers) were heavy favorites to win that night. But by the third quarter we were getting trounced: the cheers of encouragement for our team subsided and chants of “Bos-ton Sucks! Bos-ton Sucks!” started to reverberate throughout the arena. We didn’t win, and our negative chanting certainly didn’t help galvanize our team. When it was all said and done, we just felt embarrassed, like a bunch of jerks. As with a sports rivalry, you no doubt will feel an allegiance to one candidate / party over another. But trashing the other candidate won’t make yours perform better. If you feel like you need to be vocal and civically engaged in this election cycle, that’s great! But do your best to stay positive. “I like this candidate because _______”. Try it.
4) Take Action
That thing happened! And it’s terrible! You can take to Twitter and tell the world how outraged you are. You can blog about how all things are broken, and nothing is the way it should be. Blah..blah…blah. Or you can actually go make changes! You’re passionate about veterans’ rights and you believe we’re ignoring the needs of our vets? Then give your time and resources to the Wounded Warrior Project! Volunteer at the local VA hospital! Talking about it on social media may raise some awareness if you’re very convincing and have a strong following, but in terms of impact, will probably do nothing. So if you want to jibber jabber and accomplish nothing, use your hashtags and rant into the void like everyone else. But to make change, use your knowledge, training, and experience, and go make change.
5) Embrace Acceptance
You will be disappointed. Something will irk you. Your horse might not win the race. Show me someone who’s totally happy with the modern political landscape, and I’ll show you a unicorn. But if you’re holding on to your lost aspirations instead of embracing the reality of the situation (good, bad, or indifferent), you’re doing yourself a great disservice. Accept. Accept. Accept. Take the good, take the bad, and just accept the outcome like an adult. Hearkening back to numero quatro, supra (that’s lawyer speak for #4, above), if you’re so dissatisfied with the result(s), take some action to ensure that things change next time around.
Of course these tips aren’t easy fixes: they require conversational partners who are also open to discussion without judgment, and who are willing to end a conversation with an affirmation of how important the relationship is, and not all people you speak with – especially on the subject of this election – will do that. But you are in control of your side of the conversation. So stay centered. Stay sanguine. Listen actively. Turn it off. In November, vote the way your research and conscience indicate you should. And accept the results, whatever they are. Because no matter who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, it is your fellow humans with whom you share the planet – it’s in all of our interests to be able to listen to, hear and respect each other.
Zack Lodmer is a musician, yogi, and writer from Los Angles. He is the Director of the NuRoots Community Engagement Fellowship at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, and he is the founder and leader of Om Shalom Yoga. You can often catch Zack and his family at a show, on the beach, or at the local farmer’s market. Zack loves kombucha and coconut water and isn’t afraid to let the world know about it.